Women Of The Channel: What Do We Want From Our Millennial Workforce?


During a breakout session with Women of the Channel executives at XChange Solution Provider, the panelists said they see a lot of potential in the generation of female millennials coming into the channel, but adding them to the workforce comes with a need for adjustment.

"I love this new generation that’s coming in because there's so much I can learn from them. There's so much I don’t know," said May Mitchell, vice president of North America marketing at Symantec. "I think what they bring is just a whole new wave of creativity. They're really, really smart, they have this thing down pat, and they like to take risks."

During the session Monday at XChange Solution Provider 2014, hosted by CRN publisher The Channel Company in Los Angeles, the women said they particularly were drawn to the "fearless" nature of the new generation, both in their use of technology and their approach to the workplace.

[Related: 2013 Women of the Channel]

"You have to show the effort that you want to communicate in the format they like you like to communicate in," said Kim Lasseter, director of worldwide alliance and channels at Oracle. "The effort of just relating just a little bit to them. I love the way they think. ...They are just light years ahead of where we were at their age technologically and they're fearless, which you can't really teach someone to be."

Their fearlessness in turn makes already seasoned executives take risks themselves, said Anita Pandey, vice president of marketing at Airtight Networks. However, hiring the new generation also means learning to work how they want to work, she said. For example, she said she has found that millennials don't appreciate long meetings, so she has learned to pitch to them more organically with ad hoc 20-minute meetings in their cubicles.

Symantec's Mitchell said that her company has transitioned over the past year and a half to create what it calls a Leadership Success Profile to help establish a standard for leadership at the company, which she said helps with both the hiring of the new generation and gives them expectations for their time at Symantec.

When she is looking to hire a new employee from the younger generation, Oracle's Lasseter said that the most important quality they can have is good communication.

"I would just say personally what I look for from a leadership quality ... from the younger generation is communication skills," Lasseter said. "The greatest idea improperly communicated will never see the light of day, so we look for someone that has that skill you can build on, a track record of raising hands, taking on new things."

When hiring for Airtight Networks, Pandey said that the new generation's initiative is the quality she looks for because "you can't really teach that." However, Lasseter said it can be a double-edged sword because it can also lead to a feeling of entitlement and looking to move to the next level in the organization before they are ready or qualified to do so. That feeling may stem from the few success stories, such as Facebook and Twitter, where a few young people are making a lot of money very quickly, said Katie Colbert, senior director of alliances at Riverbed.

"I guess the challenge is to teach a little bit of patience," Colbert said. "It’s a delicate balance of having the initiative; you [also want to] have to have drivers, you don’t want passengers in your group that don’t need people to tell them where to go."

If the women had one lesson to impart to the younger generation, it was to learn to add value without taking over the conversation.

"Respect is a timeless concept," Airtight Networks' Pandey said.

"[Be] meaningful," Oracle's Lasseter said, which was followed by "perseverance" from Riverbed's Colbert.

"Clean up your digital footprint, focus on your brand," advised Symantec's Mitchell.  

PUBLISHED MARCH 4, 2014